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MetraPark: Let’s use disaster to reimagine arena

Administrators of Yellowstone County’s MetraPark complex say that instead of rebuilding Rimrock Auto Arena to be a copy of the original facility, destruction from a tornado should be a chance to reimagine the facility — and they want ideas from the public.

The 12,000-seat arena, home to the Billings Outlaws (IFL) and many other events and concerts, was a pretty busy place before a tornado ripped off the roof and caused extensive damage on June 20. With a team in place now to oversee construction, Yellowstone County officials say they want to take a step back and use the rebuilding process to perhaps make dramatic changes to what had been a fairly vanilla facility. Other cities the size of Billings — like Rapid City, Boise and Bismarck — have made new or renovated arena community centerpieces with financial impact; thinking of the arena less as a MetraPark venue and more as a regional venue makes sense.

Plus, an arena renovation with some possible new revenue streams could bring more sports back to Billings; the CBA was a success in the Magic City before the league went under (and with teams in Bismarck and Boise, a Billings franchise would seem to be a natural), and there may be impetus to lure an NAHL team to the facility; currently a NPHL team plays at Centennial Ice Arena.

Also, for our architect and engineering friends: next week the county will issue requests for qualifications for those bidding on the rebuilding project. A local firm will oversee the rebuilding; the architecture and construction portions of the project will be let to bid.

Want to weigh in? Here’s the website.

RELATED STORIES: Yellowstone County to rebuilt Rimrock Auto Arena; Tornado rips roof off Billings arena; damage is extensive

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